Course syllabus




Rembrandt and His World

SEMESTER 1 and 2, 2018

30 points

Course Convenor and Teacher:

Erin Griffey


Course delivery format:

E.g. - 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of tutorial

(Timetable and room details can be viewed on Student Services Online)

 Summary of Course Description:              


The Dutch painter and printmaker Rembrandt van Rijn has been the subject of extensive scholarly research, major exhibitions and ongoing popular interest. With his virtuoso painting and etching techniques and profoundly human approach to biblical subjects and portraits, Rembrandt was famous in his lifetime and has been hugely influential to subsequent generations of artists. His colourful personal life and the vibrant Dutch ‘Golden Age’ in which he lived also make him a fascinating subject for extended study that will appeal to Art History and History majors.

This paper engages in a broad range of critical approaches to Rembrandt’s art and life and positions him within the context of seventeenth-century Dutch social, political and religious history and alongside his artistic contemporaries. The course is taught in five modules.  These comprise the historical milieu in which he worked, the historical documents of his life, the artworks he produced, the issue of authorship and the critical reception of his life and work.

The monographic study in Art History requires you to learn to work with some of the fundamental tools of the discipline: developing an understanding of an artist’s oeuvre through visual and iconographical analysis, connoisseurship and the examination of historical documents. Rembrandt’s work also provides an excellent case study for issues surrounding historical methodology – conventions of chronology, authenticity and influence, and the use of biography and social history as a means of understanding an artist’s work.  Rembrandt’s role as an artist was complex – characterised by innovation yet respect for tradition, by individualism yet dependence on a professional studio with apprentices and pupils.  His virtuoso handling of painting, drawing and printmaking provide an opportunity for investigating a range of media in the seventeenth century.

This paper includes a trip to the Auckland Art Gallery to study a range of Rembrandt’s etchings in person.

 Course outcomes:

E.g. A student who successfully completes this course will have the opportunity to:

  • acquire knowledge of and apply it to x situations
  • understand and carry out [practical skills]
  • acquire skills in report writing, critical thinking, academic literacy/ numeracy/ oral presentation etc.

 Assessment Summary:

Essay                                                   25%

Seminar paper with presentation         35%

Journal                                                 40%

See the Assignments section here on Canvas for more details on each assignment, along with the due dates.  


Weekly Topics:


Prescribed Texts:

Optional info depending on course requirements

 Recommended Texts:

Optional info depending on course requirements




Attendance is expected at every class. Classes will help you synthesize what you have read, underscore important issues and cover material that is not in the readings. If you must miss a class due to illness or another issue, please email me in advance of class. Readings should be completed in advance of class; the quality of the discussion depends on it. Please contact me if I can help clarify an assignment or discuss anything that might be affecting your work in this class. 



Each week you will be assigned to view a Rembrandt video via YouTube or read a blog article and discuss them through the 'Discussions' section of Canvas. I will tell you which one to view a week before the next class. Everyone is expected to contribute to the Discussion for each viewing, each week.



There are wealth of online resources dedicated to Rembrandt that you should use for your research. I expect you to consult both of the following:

The Rembrandt Online Database: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

For your essays, start with consulting the Oxford Bibliographies of Art History outstanding entry on Rembrandt: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (if this link does not work, go through the University Library website, and select from Databases list).


 Workload and deadlines for submission of coursework:           

The University of Auckland's expectation is that students spend 10 hours per week on a 15-point course, including time in class and personal study. Students should manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Deadlines for coursework are set by course convenors and will be advertised in course material. You should submit your work on time. In extreme circumstances, such as illness, you may seek an extension but you may be required to provide supporting information before the assignment is due. Late assignments without a pre-approved extension may be penalised by loss of marks – check course information for details.

Course summary:

Date Details